President Invokes Defense Production Act to Address Need for COVID-19 Medical Supplies


The availability of personal protective equipment, including face masks, gloves and hand sanitizers, have been a concern to many pharmacists.

President Donald J. Trump today invoked the Defense Production Act in an effort to increase medical supplies to combat the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In a White House press conference Wednesday, federal health officials also said there is increasing capacity for testing to detect the virus.1

The Defense Production Act allows for the expedition and expansion of supply resources from US industries to support federal programs.2 In this case, manufacturers are being tasked with increasing production of ventilators, face masks, and other medical supplies needed by the health care industry for the treatment and prevention of COVID-19.1

The availability of personal protective equipment, including face masks, gloves and hand sanitizers, have been a concern to many pharmacists.3 Vice President Mike Pence has also called for the use of industrial ventilation masks, such as those used by construction workers, to be diverted to hospitals for use by health care professionals.4

In addition, a pair of Department of Defense hospital ships, Mercy and Comfort, are being prepared for potential service to the United States and could be called into action to help serve patients, Trump said. Although these ships are not yet needed, Trump said, “They can be launched over the next week or so.”

According to members of the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force, the federal government is making strides with testing for COVID-19. “We’re increasing the number of tests being performed by the thousands each day,” Pence said.1

Deborah Birx, MD, pointed to recent emergency use authorizations (EUAs) granted by the FDA with increasing testing capacity across the United States. She credited private companies Therma Fisher Scientific and Roche Molecular Systems, each of which has an EUA for COVID-19 testing, with helping to clear a backlog of tests.1

“We asked them to prioritize the regions that were most affected [by COVID-19],” Birx said.1 “We will see the number of people diagnosed increase over the next 4 to 5 days [as the backlog clears].”

On Monday, the FDA announced 2 more EUAs for COVID-19 tests. These EUAs were granted to Hologic and Laboratory Corporation of America.5

Trump also announced a potential self-swab COVID-19 test option that is not yet approved nor authorized by the FDA. This method, he said, would help testing be conducted more quickly for each patient and would allow health care workers additional time for more patients or other tasks.1

“It would be administered by health officials, but it would be a lot easier to do,” Trump said.1 “We have a current process that’s a bit difficult.”

During the press conference, CMS Administrator Seema Verma recommended that elective procedures be curtailed during the pandemic as another way to conserve resources. She said that doing so would help preserve medical equipment and would allow health care workers more time with patients who have immediate needs. Curtailing elective procedures also would help more patients avoid contracting COVID-19, she said.1

For up-to-date information on COVID-19 for pharmacy professionals, visit Pharmacy Times' coronavirus resource center.


  • Coronavirus Task Force. White House press conference. Washington, DC; March 18, 2020.
  • FEMA. Defense Production Act Authorities. FEMA website. Updated August 13, 2018. Accessed March 18, 2020.
  • Antrim A. Pharmacists Concerns About Lack of Personal Protective Equipment, Hand Sanitizers for COVID-19 Outbreak. Pharmacy Times. Published March 18, 2020. Accessed March 18, 2020.
  • White House Coronavirus Task Force Press Briefing. Presented online: March 16, 2020; Washington, DC. Accessed March 16, 2020.
  • Antrim A. FDA Issues COVID-19 Diagnostic Emergency Use Authorization to Hologic, LabCorp. Pharmacy Times. Published March 17, 2020. Accessed March 18, 2020.

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